July 14, 2011 / 4:03 PM / 8 years ago

Libya rebels find landmines after Gaddafi troops flee

AL-QAWALISH, Libya (Reuters) - Libyan rebels ran into a minefield when they recaptured a frontline village from Muammar Gaddafi’s forces, they said on Thursday, providing fresh evidence government troops are using mines in the uprising.

Libya is not party to the international treaty that bans the use of landmines, but rights groups say its use of the weapons violates established norms, especially if they are laid in areas where they pose a threat to civilians.

Rebel mine-clearers showed Reuters a pickup truck with a mounted anti-aircraft gun they said had been destroyed by an anti-vehicle mine during a rebel assault to recapture the village of al-Qawalish, which was briefly seized by Gaddafi’s troops on Wednesday.

Several dozen anti-personnel mines and anti-vehicle mines were lined up nearby. The rebels said they had piled them after digging them out earlier on Thursday.

A rebel vehicle was also destroyed by a landmine in the area last week when the village was first captured by the rebels.

Libya denies it has used landmines during the five-month uprising in areas where civilians could be harmed.

New York-based Human Rights Watch, in a report released last month, said it had found evidence pro-Gaddafi forces have laid dozens of landmines in the same Western Mountains region where Al-Qawalish is located.

“These anti-personnel landmines pose a huge threat to civilians,” Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch, was quoted as saying in the report.

“More than 150 countries have banned landmines, but Libya continues to defy this global trend.”

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